Charity Buzz: Spotlighting Down Syndrome Academy
Last spring, Jennifer and Steve Friedman's daughters, Gwendolyn and Madolyn, who are 13 months apart, were both preparing to graduate Bellaire High School and the family was considering best options for their futures. Both Gwendolyn and Madolyn sought to pursue meaningful and rewarding work, and expand their social engagements to gain independence and happiness.
Madolyn decided to attend Emerson College in Boston, but her sister’s path was less clear because Gwendolyn has Down syndrome. So in April, the Friedman’s met with Down syndrome community advocate Rosa Rocha, the founder of Friends of Down Syndrome, to find out more about their Down Syndrome Academy. They found out that the Down Syndrome Academy provides wonderful experiences for more than 25 post-high school adults, ranging in age from 19-49.
These students balance three days of academics with two days of vocational skills and work at the Down Syndrome Academy and in the community. For example, some of Gwendolyn’s jobs includes working in a church to complete administrative and cleaning tasks, assembling birdhouses for sale, disassembling old trophies for Revived Glory Awards to reassemble and sell, and collecting and sorting coupons for a military program.
The Friedman family has joined hundreds of volunteers in developing programming, helping with marketing, and assisting with field trips and the creative T21 Social Club. The Down Syndrome Academy continues to attract new students, families, volunteers, donors, and advocates, which has spurred expansion and dreams of a new campus, growing community-wide work partnerships, andadjacent residential housing.
Steve Friedman said, “All these developments are exciting for its membership, but all the smiles, excitement, and continued development of its students, including Gwendolyn Friedman, is reward enough for the Down Syndrome Academy community.” Gwendolyn, who loves her time at the Down Syndrome Academy, tells her parents that she’s proud of herself and that she wants to continue learning so she can find a job and move into a house one day.
Currently, the Down Syndrome Academy is planning for its 2015 fundraising extravaganza, the Cinderella Ball, in conjunction with World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. If you would like to help the students reach their dreams of being crowned Cinderella or Prince Charming, or just want to volunteer, please see details at the Cinderella Ball website. To learn more about the Down Syndrome Academy, how you can help, or to schedule a tour, visit the Friends of Down Syndrome website.
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